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"Coffins, Jars, and Tombs" Symposium Explores Ancient Asian Burials

April 12, 2005

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Examining ancient Asian burial rituals is the subject of a half-day symposium at UF this Saturday titled “Coffins, Jars and Tombs: Prehistoric Burial in East and Southeast Asia.” The event is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Friends of Music Room in the University Auditorium and is free and open to the public.

Organized by John Krigbaum, an assistant professor of anthropology, the symposium aims to share some of the exciting avenues of archaeological research taking place at key prehistoric sites in Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand with the UF and Gainesville communities.

“Since modern humans have come on the scene, burial has been an important ritual activity by the living for the dead,” said Krigbaum. “Coffins, Jars and Tombs” aims to introduce and explore prehistoric patterns of burial and ritual as inferred from specific case studies in East and Southeast Asia.

Krigbaum will kick-off the symposium by setting the scene in terms of the prehistory of East and Southeast Asia and the notion of formalized burial over the millennia. Lindsay Lloyd-Smith from the University of Cambridge in England will discuss Neolithic burial patterns at Niah Cave in Malaysia. Kwang-tzuu Chen from Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan will talk about the practice of jar burial in Taiwan and East and Southeast Asia while Sawang Lertrit from Silpakorn University in Bangkok, Thailand will present recent work on late prehistoric sites and burial in central Thailand.

“Although media attention has long been focused on the mummies of ancient Egypt and more recently on the lavish tombs of Mayan kings in the Guatemalan jungles, the burial customs of many other world areas were equally early, exotic and diverse, providing a wealth of information about peoples and civilizations of the past,” said Susan Gillespie, the associate chair of UF’s anthropology department. “These lesser known but equally significant ways of dealing with the dead provide a window into the otherwise vanished ritual beliefs and practices of ancient Asian peoples. Analysis of grave types and locations, accompanying artifacts and the human remains themselves, as explained by the various conference speakers, can enrich our understanding of the diversity of past cultures and give us pause to reflect on our own funerary customs and beliefs.”

The symposium is sponsored by the Asian Studies Program, Department of Anthropology and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. For more information, visit


John Krigbaum, UF assistant professor of anthropology
(352) 392-2253, ext. 243/244,

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